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BC-AP Sports Digest

March 25, 2019

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TOP STORIES

FBN--PATRIOTS-GRONKOWSKI RETIRES

BOSTON _ The New England Patriots’ gentle giant has decided to hang up his cleats. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said Sunday that he is retiring from the NFL after nine seasons. By Kyle Hightower. SENT. 640 words, photos.

FBN--GOING GRONK

Rob Gronkowski the football player is finished. Yeah, but what about Gronk? Well, the party is about to go bazooka. Look out for Gronk gone wild, Gronk unhinged, Gronk unleashed. Without football strings attached, Gronkowski is suddenly a hot free agent year-round, his talents pitched to far more than 32 suitors, from Hollywood to endorsements to, well, whatever Gronk wants. By Dan Gelston. UPCOMING: 1,000 words, photos by 4 a.m.

BKC--NCAA TOURNAMENT-NO UPSETS

Chalk one up for the seeded favorite in the NCAA Tournament. The biggest upset this March isn’t a wild heave at the horn for a winner from a No. 15 seed or a First Four team somehow weaving into the second weekend _ it’s the lack of genuine stunners to shake up the bracket. The top seeds are still at the top of the tourney. By Dan Gelston. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 4 a.m.

BKC--NCAA-UCF-DUKE

COLUMBIA, S.C. _Zion Williamson took on 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall at the end and won. So did top-seeded Duke — barely — when two last-ditch shots by UCF rolled off the rim. Williamson had 32 points and helped rally the Blue Devils from behind in the final minute for a 77-76 victory to reach the Sweet 16. By Pete Iacobelli. SENT: 980 words, photos.

With:

_ NCAA-DAWKINS HEARTBREAK _ UCF coach Johnny Dawkins and his son, Aubrey, shared the heartbreak of a last-second missed shot and a missed opportunity in the NCAA Tournament. By Jeffrey Collins. SENT: 650 words, photos.

BKW--NCAA WOMEN’S TIPPING OFF

NEW YORK _ Eight invitations to the Sweet 16 have been delivered and the other eight will be decided Monday night. UConn is back in the regional semifinals for the 26th consecutive year, and the Pac-12 has yet to lose in the postseason. By Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg. UPCOMING: 920 words, photos by 4 a.m.

BBA--ANGELS-TROUT RETURNS

ANAHEIM, Calif. _Mike Trout says he will be a Los Angeles Angel for life after agreeing to a $426.5 million, 12-year contract last week to stay with the club. Trout and the Angels paused before the first week of the regular season to celebrate the two-time AL MVP and the biggest contract in North American sports history with a fan celebration in front of Angel Stadium. By Greg Beacham. SENT: 760 words, photo. With BIGGEST SPORTS CONTRACTS graphic.

With:

_ BBO--DODGERS-ANGELS _ Mike Trout had an RBI double and the Angels beat the Dodgers 8-4 in the first game of their three-game exhibition Freeway Series. By Greg Beacham. SENT:: 540 words, photos.

NCAA TOURNAMENT

Men:

BKC--NCAA-WASHINGTON-NORTH CAROLINA

COLUMBUS, Ohio _ After making an early exit from the NCAA Tournament last season, North Carolina breezed to the Sweet 16. By Mitch Stacy. SENT: 750 words, photos.

BKC--NCAA-OKLAHOMA-VIRGINIA

COLUMBIA, S.C. _ Virginia coach Tony Bennett made a last-minute change in his starting lineup and the top-seeded Cavaliers finally breezed through an NCAA Tournament game to make their first Sweet 16 in three years. By Jeffrey Collins. SENT: 740 words, photos.

BKC--NCAA-UC IRVINE-OREGON

SAN JOSE, Calif. _Ehab Amin sparked Oregon out of a long drought to start the second half and the Ducks became the lone double-digit seed to advance to the Sweet 16 by beating UC Irvine. By Josh Dubow. SENT: 800 words, photos.

Also:

_ Stories on the 4 other second-round games.

_ BKC--ALABAMA-JOHNSON OUT _ Avery Johnson out as Alabama coach after 4 seasons. SENT: 420 words, photo.

_ BKC--CALIFORNIA-JONES FIRED _ Wyking Jones fired by California after just 8 wins in each of first two seasons. By Josh Dubow. SENT: 700 words, photos.

_ BKC--TULANE-HUNTER _ Ron Hunter leaves Georgia State to become Tulane’s coach. By Paul Newberry. SENT: 790 words, photos.

Women:

BKW--NCAA-BUFFALO-UCONN

STORRS, Conn. _UConn doesn’t normally have to grind out wins early in the NCAA Tournament, yet found itself doing just that against 10th-seeded Buffalo. By Pat Eaton-Robb. SENT: 820 words, photos.

BKW--NCAA-ARIZONA ST-MIAMI

CORAL GABLES, Fla. _ The final 10 seconds of the game for Arizona State’s Robbi Ryan were essentially a microcosm of the Sun Devils’ night. When in trouble, they kept grinding. And at the final buzzer, it all paid off. By Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds. SENT: 770 words, photos.

Also:

_ Stories on 6 other second-round games.

BKW--NCAA-STANFORD-COFFEE’S SIGN LANGUAGE

STANFORD, Calif. _ Shannon Coffee wanted to learn sign language in high school, yet the timing never worked as she focused first on getting through Spanish. As soon as she arrived at Stanford, Coffee signed up for sign language. On Monday night, the senior will sign the national anthem before her final home game at Maples Pavilion. By Janie McCauley. SENT: 810 words, photos.

NBA

BKN--AROUND THE NBA

MIAMI _ The playoff field is largely set. The positioning, that’s still anyone’s guess. So even while some of what we could have had for drama over the final 2½ weeks of the NBA regular season won’t materialize, the races for seedings and home-court edges are almost certain now to go down to the final days of the season. By Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds. UPCOMING: 1,000 words, photos by 4 a.m.

BKN--SPURS-CELTICS

BOSTON _Two nights after the San Antonio Spurs had no answer for James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge assumed a similarly unstoppable role against the Boston Celtics. By Kyle Hightower. SENT: 730 words, photos.

NHL

HKN--LIGHTNING-WHAT TO PLAY FOR

The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the Presidents’ Trophy, top seed in the Eastern Conference and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs with nine games remaining. But a schedule that features almost all playoff opponents has the NHL’s top team thinking it can avoid a late-season malaise that would be expected with nothing tangible to play for. By Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno. SENT: 650 words, photos.

GOLF

GLF--VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP

PALM HARBOR, Fla. _ Paul Casey got the battle he expected Sunday in the Valspar Championship. Just not from Dustin Johnson. Casey and everyone else had full attention on a Copperhead course at Innisbrook that made the final round feel more like survival than a shootout. By Golf Writer Doug Ferguson. SENT: 840 words, photos.

GLF--LPGA TOUR

PHOENIX _Jin Young Ko rallied to win the Founders Cup on Sunday for her third LPGA Tour victory and first in the United States, closing with a 7-under 65 for a one-stroke victory over four players. By John Nicholson. SENT: 800 words, photos.

Also:

_ GLF--MAYBANK CHAMPIONSHIP _ Scott Hend wins Maybank Championship in playoff. SENT: 360 words, photos.

AUTO RACING

CAR--NASCAR-MARTINSVILLE

MARTINSVILLE, Va. _ Brad Keselowski gave Team Penske and the new Ford Mustang its third Cup victory through the first six races of the season by routing the field at Martinsville Speedway. By AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer. SENT: 880 words, photos.

CAR--INDYCAR-AUSTIN

AUSTIN, Texas _ Rookie Colton Herta became the youngest winner in IndyCar history at the inaugural IndyCar Classic. By Jim Vertuno. SENT: 430 words, photos.

BASEBALL

_ BBA--ASTROS-VERLANDER _ Justin Verlander says staying with Astros is a better situation than free agency. SENT: 500 words.

_ BBO--OBIT-NOBLE _ Longtime New York Mets beat writer Marty Noble dies at 70. UPCOMING: 130 words by 4 a.m.

_ BBO--SPRING TRAINING RDP _ SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

___

A paginated preview of the MLB season, with the first full day of regular-season games starting March 28, is available in AP Newsroom by searching for “Sports Extra” or “SE” under the Graphics tab. The pages look at some of the biggest players who have switched teams since last season as well as the top prospects and dates of note. For questions, contact Barry Bedlan at bbedlan@ap.org

TENNIS

TEN--MIAMI OPEN

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. _ Novak Djokovic pulled a spare ball from his pocket, angrily whacked it against the backstop and then pounded his uncooperative racket into the concrete. He lost his temper, but not the match at the Miami Open. By Steven Wine. SENT: 500 words, photos.

SKIING

SKI--MIKAELA IN MANHATTAN

NEW YORK _ Mikaela Shiffrin just capped a record-setting ski season. The 24-year-old American spent time in New York to celebrate an unprecedented 17 World Cup wins and her third straight overall title. Lindsey Vonn won four overall titles before she retired this season at the age of 34. Shiffrin had appearances at Macy’s and on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” By Melissa Murphy. SENT: 1,020 words, photos.

SOCCER

SOC--ITALY-THE RONALDO EFFECT

Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus isn’t just helping raise the profile of Serie A. It’s also helping Italy’s national team to recover from its failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup. By Andrew Dampf. SENT: 700 words, photos.

OTHER

ATH--LOS ANGELES MARATHON

SANTA MONICA, Calif. _ Elisha Barno of Kenya passed countryman John Korir with 150 meters to go to win the Los Angeles Marathon for the closest finish in the race’s 34-year history. Ethiopia’s Askale Merachi won the women’s race and set a race record. SENT: 600 words.

BOX--LIPINETS-PETERSON

OXON HILL, Md. _Sergey Lipinets may get another title shot. Lamont Peterson is done. Lipinets stopped Peterson in the 10th round of a brutal welterweight bout on Sunday night, bringing Peterson to declare an end to his career just minutes after his trainer threw in the towel. SENT: 570 words.

CAPSULES

_ BKC--NCAA TOURNAMENT CAPSULES

_ BKW--NCAA TOURNAMENT CAPSULES

_ BKN--NBA CAPSULES

_ HKN--NHL CAPSULES

___

Monday Time Schedule (EDT)

Women’s NCAA Tournament

(Second Round)

At Raleigh, N.C.

Kentucky vs. N.C. State, 7 p.m.

At Syracuse, N.Y.

South Dakota State vs. Syracuse, 7 p.m.

At Notre Dame, Ind.

Notre Dame vs. Michigan State, 7 p.m.

At College Park, Md.

UCLA vs. Maryland, 7 p.m.

At Waco, Texas

Baylor vs. California, 9 p.m.

At Ames, Iowa

Missouri State vs. Iowa State, 9 p.m.

At Corvallis, Ore.

Gonzaga vs. Oregon State, 9 p.m.

At Stanford, Calif.

BYU vs. Stanford, 11 p.m.

NBA

Philadelphia at Orlando, 7 p.m.

Oklahoma City at Memphis, 8 p.m.

Phoenix at Utah, 9 p.m.

Brooklyn at Portland, 10 p.m.

NHL

Pittsburgh at N.Y. Rangers, 7 p.m.

Buffalo at New Jersey, 7 p.m.

Florida at Toronto, 7 p.m.

Boston at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.

Dallas at Winnipeg, 8 p.m.

Nashville at Minnesota, 8 p.m.

Vegas at St. Louis, 8 p.m.

Los Angeles at Calgary, 9 p.m.

Detroit at San Jose, 10:30 p.m.

PRESEASON BASEBALL

Rochester vs. Minnesota at Fort Myers, Fla., 1:05 p.m.

N.Y. Mets vs. Baltimore at Sarasota, Fla., 1:05 p.m.

Tigers Futures vs. Detroit at Lakeland, Fla., 1:05 p.m.

Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia at Clearwater, Fla., 1:05 p.m.

Colorado vs. Albuquerque at Albuquerque, NM, 3:05 p.m.

N.Y. Yankees vs. Washington at Washington, DC, 5:05 p.m.

Kansas City vs. Omaha at Papillion, NE, 7:05 p.m.

Milwaukee vs. Toronto at Montreal, QB, 7:05 p.m.

Cincinnati vs. Atlanta at Atlanta, GA, 7:20 p.m.

St. Louis vs. Memphis at Memphis, TN, 8 p.m.

Cleveland vs. Texas at Arlington, TX, 8:05 p.m.

Pittsburgh vs. Houston at Houston, TX, 8:10 p.m.

Boston vs. Chicago Cubs at Mesa, Ariz., 9:05 p.m.

Chicago White Sox vs. Arizona at Phoenix, 9:40 p.m.

Oakland vs. San Francisco at San Francisco, CA, 9:45 p.m.

L.A. Dodgers vs. L.A. Angels at Anaheim, CA, 10:07 p.m.

San Diego vs. Seattle at Seattle, WA, 10:10 p.m.